Reflecting back on my January reads for the past 2-3 years I realised that I don’t pick easy books. I usually have tomes with unfamiliar tropes, complex storytelling and non-linear narratives as my way to gear up for the year ahead.
However, this year bookstagram wove its magic and I found myself looking at the impossibly lovely book cover of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches as a read in one of the online book clubs. Thanks, Resh! And I couldn’t resist reading about witches and irregular at that!
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna is about witches, magic, love and familial relations that the characters find in the unlikeliest of places.
The author started writing the book a few months into the pandemic. I can understand the feeling of escapism and the need to find unconditional love and acceptance and everything heartwarming.
A welcoming house by the sea, lovely gardens, greenhouses, a friendly golden retriever, a bright, sunny-smiled witch, adorable little girls who can do magic, a sententious old man with a wicked sense of humour, a fussing-over-you housekeeper, a gentle and sweet gardener, a scowling-but-heart-of-gold librarian, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches manages to have all these elements so that the book is like a hug, cosy and nice.
Nealy no one here has a family. We meet orphans (all witches are, by virtue of a spell gone wrong), people seeking refuge outside abusive marriage, dysfunctional families, battling childhood trauma, having trust issues. But there’s no dark cloud on the horizon. Not even dead bodies or skeletons evoke horror. There’s so much love from strangers, adopted families and in the unlikeliest of places that this world becomes your favourite place to live in.
You are so entranced by everything that makes you happy and loved that you don’t mind the lack of conflict, rather the lack of serious conflict in the story. The only thing I can say that’s not warm and glowing about the book is that the disasters, the difficult circumstances are somehow glossed over, the obstacles fall too easily and the conflicts resolved too conveniently. However I wasn’t going to let that come in the way of my enjoyment.
I would recommend this book to everyone, if they want to just lose themselves in the world of what-can-be, rather than thinking can-it-be-possible.